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City of Banjul
Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Data prices in my mine

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Dear Editor,

Early last month, a scathing report came out detailing Gambia’s ranking in data prices. It was revealed that the Gambia ranked 9th highest data tariff in Africa amidst our low GDP. This can be attributed to population size vis a vis the fixed cost of capital investment. Bigger countries can spread the capital cost to a larger subscriber base thereby making their return on investment easier. Size in the case of the telecommunications market is not in favour of the Gambia. Therefore, innovation and efficiency are the only factors that can drive the cost of data down in the Gambia. Most if not all the telecoms in the market haven’t done a good job explaining this bottleneck to their subscribers who on a daily basis lament about the exorbitant cost of data in the market.

Well it looks like #Africell has taken note of this out cry and slashed prices by up to 60% depending on the bundles one chooses to buy. This in my view is a welcome move to allay the concerns of their subscribers. The reduction in tariff by Africell may induce volumes there by creating a win-win situation for both the company and its subscribers. Data has quickly overcome voice as the primary revenue generator for GSM companies and the growth and development ICT in the Gambia hinges more on affordability more than availability. I welcome this move hoping that other operators will follow suit.

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Looking at the market dynamics, only Qcell is in a position to follow the lead taken by Africell. Comium Gambia and Gamcell will find it extremely difficult to offer discounted tariffs because they lack the subscriber numbers to absorb the effects of a tariff cut. Great days ahead for Gambian subscribers as the market is evolving to be a subscriber’s market rather than an operator’s market. Thank you Africell for taking the lead in addressing the concerns of your esteemed subscribers. I propose that you roll out a sensitisation campaign to explain to your subscribers the real gains of this tariff cut as many see it as a gimmick. It is surely not a gimmick but a thorough explanation of the cuts needs to be provided for to the public. As alluded earlier in my post, the GSM companies need to do more in educating their subscribers about their tariffs in order to debunk the long-held notion that the tariffs on offer are not reflective of their spending.

Nyang Njie

Banjul

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Israeli failures, US charades and a negotiated truce

In the early hours of November 22, Qatar formally announced that an agreement had been reached for an Israeli-Palestinian exchange of captives. The available details suggest it largely reflects the proposal offered by Hamas several weeks ago that was initially rejected by Israel.

?he announcement was made just a week after Israeli tanks and soldiers stormed into the al-Shifa Hospital compound in Gaza City, causing international outrage. Israel had claimed that there was a Hamas command centre there and repeatedly vowed to destroy it. As it happened, the only facility to be found within the compound was a hospital.

The United States fully supported Israel’s violation of al-Shifa’s sanctity and even claimed it had independent intelligence about a Palestinian Pentagon beneath it but produced no evidence in support of this assertion.

At the time, this led to speculation that these events may have been the product of an informal US-Israeli agreement: The Biden administration would support Israel’s seizure of al-Shifa and would cover for this war crime politically and diplomatically with lies of its own, thus allowing an Israeli military with few achievements since October 7 to have its “Iwo Jima moment” atop “Mount Shifa”.

But once it would become clear that there was nothing of military significance within the premises, the US would proceed to finalise a deal with Hamas and Israel would have to agree to its implementation.

It does indeed appear to be the case that in exchange for US support for Israel’s systematic destruction of the health sector in the Gaza Strip, a deal with Hamas has been reached.

The agreement is significant in several respects. Perhaps most importantly, the US and Israel, which repeatedly vowed to eradicate Hamas, are now negotiating with the Palestinian movement and reaching agreements with it. Qatari-Egyptian mediation, while indispensable, is ultimately a formality. The US and Israel are not negotiating with Egypt and Qatar but with Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and architect of the October 7 attacks.

The tenor of Israeli press reports in recent days has been that Hamas is desperate for a respite, however brief and at almost any price, from the ferocious Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip.

Yet the available reports about the deal suggest otherwise: Israel has committed to releasing three times as many imprisoned women and children as the Palestinians; no Israeli soldiers are included in the exchange; significantly more humanitarian supplies, including fuel, will reach the Gaza Strip; the exchange of captives will be implemented during a continuous four-day truce rather than one in which the slaughter is paused for a brief period each day; and Israeli jets and drones will be prohibited from using the airspace over the Gaza Strip for several hours each day.

This is quite close to the deal initially offered by Hamas several weeks ago, and it appears the bulk of its demands have been conceded by Israel and the US. If the adage that negotiations reflect reality on the ground rather than overturning it applies, Hamas – in contrast to the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip, which has been Israel’s main target – seems far from desperate. Instead, it appears sufficiently confident to stick to its priorities until these are accepted by the US and Israel.

 Pursuant to the agreement, Hamas has also forced the US and Israel to consent to the supply of large amounts of essential humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip. In other words, Hamas has in one fell swoop achieved exponentially more on the humanitarian front than the much-vaunted US diplomacy to secure humanitarian relief for Gaza’s Palestinian civilians during the past month.

This confirms that the entire US effort was in essence a circus – a diversionary charade to enable Israel to continue with its mass killings and transform the Gaza Strip into a wasteland and a killing field.

It bears repeating that Hamas has forced the US and Israel to allow significant quantities of food, water, medicine and fuel to reach the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Yet Hamas is the anointed terrorist organisation in this equation while Israel is the light unto nations with the world’s most moral army and the US – the world’s greatest democracy dedicated to spreading freedom and human rights to the rest of the planet.

What happens next is difficult to assess. According to reports, only Israeli and dual nationals are to be released, presumably to help the Israeli leadership swallow this very bitter pill and to allay Israeli concerns that the release of foreign nationals would be privileged in negotiations with Hamas. Yet by insisting on this formula, Israel has ensured that further negotiations to release foreign citizens would continue, potentially leading to an extension of the truce.

At the same time, it is difficult to believe that the Israeli leadership can accept a temporary truce that metamorphoses into an indefinite one. It is clearly in the Israeli premier’s personal and political interest to keep this conflict going while the security establishment is also desperate to wipe away the stain of October 7. Other members of Israel’s governing coalition partners see this war as a golden opportunity to unleash the apocalypse and want it to escalate further rather than wind down.

Although the Gaza Strip has been substantially destroyed, Hamas has yet to be significantly degraded, and the Israeli army has yet to kill more Hamas commanders than United Nations staff.

If Israel is confident it can once again flout US policy without consequences, it will. This could take the form of sabotaging the truce or resuming hostilities to ensure it is not extended. Farther afield, the Israeli-Lebanese front also seems to be rapidly heating up.

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